What’s the difference between a practice, scrimmage or exhibition? Not much. None of them count.
After weeks of dress rehearsals, secret scrimmages and meaningless exhibitions, the college basketball season finally gets underway this week.
“We’ve beaten up on each other for a month and a half, and now it’s time to go up against somebody else,” South Florida Bulls head coach Stan Heath said.
Actually, going into the so-called season opener, many teams have already played somebody else.
College basketball allows teams to create their own mixed bag of scrimmages, game-like practices and exhibitions in the “pre-preseason”.
Basketball teams can play other schools, but if nobody sees or talks about it, it’s a scrimmage. If they play that same school in front of fans, but don’t want it to count against their record, it’s an exhibition. Later on those teams might square off in an exotic location in a tournament with other schools. That’s a “Classic” and it counts.
Yesterday South Florida beat Eckerd College in an exhibition game. The previous week they played against the Miami Hurricanes, but because no fans saw it, and nobody talked about it, it was deemed a scrimmage. Meanwhile, St. John’s Red Storm suited up, played with officials and working scoreboards to simulate a real game. That was just practice.
Prominent programs can schedule tune-ups against cupcakes without fear of embarrassment because according to the NCAA, exhibitions only count if both schools agree to it.
So if you’re a Big East Conference school you will never agree to going on the record against the Eastern Southwest State Satellite campus club team. That’s why Miami can just shrug off its exhibition loss to Saint Leo University.
Whatever happened to just scheduling a couple of easy opponents before entering the conference schedule?
What used to be the Preseason National Invitational Tournament (NIT) is now the NIT Season Tip-Off. And yes, it counts. That gets underway in late November, when we get a series of holiday classics, shootouts and invitationals.
Then after January, conference play heats up. That’s when the season really begins.
Merlisa covers Georgetown and Big East basketball. Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa.